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Finding the value in cap casualties

Posted Mar 8, 2012

The Chiefs signed CB Stanford Routt last month, who was a cap casualty in Oakland

It’s all about the money this time of year in the NFL.

Cuts are rolling in across the league, most of them financially related before the NFL calendar begins a new year on March 13th. The free agent pool is being fed daily with cap casualties, none more popular at the moment than former Colts QB Peyton Manning.

Manning, of course, was released one day before a $28 million roster bonus kicked in.

For the Chiefs, this secondary pool of free agents is where the team has found a sizeable portion of its free agent productivity in recent years.

Kansas City already made one such addition this off-season by signing CB Stanford Routt 11 days after he was released by the Raiders. Routt was cut just one season after signing a five-year, $54.5 million contract.

In an effort to get under the salary cap by March 13th, Oakland has had to restructure deals with DT Richard Seymour and S Michael Huff. The team is still waiting to see if LB Kamerion Wimbley is willing to take a pay cut.

Even with the recent moves, Oakland has more work ahead to get under the cap by Tuesday afternoon.

Over in Seattle, the Seahawks parted ways with Pro Bowl CB Marcus Trufant this week. The longtime Seahawk had battled back issues through the past few years and was on pace to make $7.2 million next season.

In San Diego, DE Luis Castillo refused to take a pay cut and was released by the team earlier this week.

Another wave of familiar names will no doubt hit the free agent pool over the weekend and early next week. Here are a few cap casualties who’ve landed in Kansas City under GM Scott Pioli’s watch.

NT Kelly Gregg

Cut by Ravens 7/28/11

Signed by Chiefs 7/30/11 (one-year contract)

The Ravens released Gregg shortly after the NFL Lockout lifted and the Chiefs wasted no time in scooping up the veteran. Gregg was included with WR Derrick Mason, RB Willis McGahee and TE Todd Heap in a series of cuts that saved Baltimore nearly $19 million in cap space.

Gregg played well last season for the Chiefs, serving as an effective stopgap when the team was thin at nose tackle. He played in all 16 games (14 starts) and was a mainstay in Kansas City’s base defense.

Scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency next week, there are reports that the 36-year old will call it a career this off-season. The reports aren’t surprising considering Gregg and C Casey Wiegmann discussed possible retirement prior to the Chiefs Week 17 game in Denver.

Gregg's stats in KC

Year GP GS Tkls Sacks PR FR FF INTs PD
2011 16 14 26 1 0 0 0 0 1

G Ryan Lilja

Cut by Colts 3/8/10

Signed by Chiefs 3/16/10 (three-year contract)

The Colts paid Lilja a $1.7 million roster bonus and then terminated his contract. The message they delivered to Peyton Manning’s starting left guard was that the team wanted to “go bigger” on the offensive line. The 6’2”, 290-pound Lilja was also slated to make around $3.1 million in 2010.

Lilja has started 30 games since returning to his hometown two years ago. He was arguably the team’s top offensive lineman in 2010, recognized by SI’s Peter King as an All-Pro. Last season was an up-and-down year for the 30-year old veteran.

Lilja's stats in KC

Year GP GS Pen Yds False Start Hold Sacks Allwd.
2010 15 15 4 25 3 1 1.5
2011 15 15 1 10 0 1 2
Totals 30 30 5 35 3 2 3.5

RB Thomas Jones

Cut by Jets 3/5/10

Signed by Chiefs 3/9/10 (two-year contract)

Due a $3 million roster bonus on top of a $2.8 million base salary in 2010, the Jets made a tough decision to cut their clubhouse leader. New York reportedly wanted to restructure Jones’ deal, but the two sides couldn’t reach a compromise.

Jones turned 32 his first season in Kansas City, but didn’t show signs of age until the final swing of the season. Not only was he a major contributor to the Chiefs fast start in 2010, but he acted as a mentor to Pro Bowler Jamaal Charles as well. Jones’ 2010 season caused some in New York to wonder if the Jets had given up on the veteran too soon?

Last season, Jones struggled to average just 3.1 yards per rush. He’ll hit unrestricted free agency next week and, thus far, there hasn’t been much buzz regarding an effort to re-sign him in Kansas City.

Jones' Rushing Stats In KC

Year GP GS No Yds Avg. LG TD
2010 16 10 245 896 3.7 70 6
2011 16 8 153 478 3.1 26 0
Totals 32 18 398 1,374 3.5 70 6

C Casey Wiegmann

Cut by Broncos 2/23/10

Signed by Chiefs 3/12/10 (one-year contract; re-signed one-year deal 7/29/11)

Wiegmann wasn’t victim of the salary cap, but rather a scheme change in Denver.

The Broncos shifted from a zone blocking scheme to a traditional, power-based offensive approach and parted ways with the smaller Wiegmann in the process.

Wiegmann’s second stint in Kansas City mirrored his first. He never missed a snap, playing in 32 consecutive games and ran his consecutive snaps tally to 11,162 straight. The 38-year old iron man will hit unrestricted free agency next week, but is expected to retire.

Wiegmann's stats in KC

Year GP GS Pen Yds False Start Hold Sacks Allwd.
2010 16 16 2 20 0 2 0
2011 16 16 2 15 1 1 1.5
Totals 32 32 4 35 1 3 1.5

S Mike Brown

Cut by Bears 2/14/09

Signed by Chiefs 6/25/09 (one-year contract)

Chicago had no choice but to walk away from Brown’s salary and injury history after nine seasons. The Bears’ decision wasn’t surprising despite Brown becoming one of the most productive and beloved players in recent franchise history.

Though his best days were clearly behind him, Brown started all 16 games for the Chiefs in 2009. It was the first time he’d made it through a full season since 2003.

A year later, the Chiefs drafted Eric Berry fifth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Brown's stats in KC

Year GP GS Tkls Sacks PR FR FF INTs PD
2009 16 16 99 2 1 1 0 3 6
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